Category Archives: animals

“It was pretty big for a country store.”

Norris: [My father’s general store, Bloxom Brothers] was pretty big for a country store. ….

There was an upstairs … the upstairs was where they sold feathers … . They also sold glass … they cut glass for various things. I can remember fiddling around with the glass cutter. …  They sold everything from horse collars to shoes, hats, patent medicines, and of course, the usual groceries and meats.

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… They sold a little bit of everything. Mouth organs, I can remember, horse collars, rope, patent medicines – just about anything you’d need, anything for farmers you’d need. …

Lee: Did people come and hang out there?

Norris : Yes, they did.  The farmers would come in particularly on Saturday nights, and most of them … in the ’20s they would come by horse cart. Dad had hitching posts out beside the store. I can remember that very well, they’d come in horse carts for their weekly shopping. …”

Lee: During the Depression, and even before that – did they trade?

Norris: Oh my goodness, yes. Absolutely. We had, in the back of the store, a separate thing for chickens. They’d take chickens and ducks in trade. And they issued … I’m not sure I can find one … You’ve seen those old store due-bills, haven’t you?

Lee: I don’t think so.

Norris:  … I have one somewhere for two cents. They’d bring chickens and corn also. We had two corn stacks in the back. Corn and chicken and, I guess, ducks – I don’t know, but I can remember the chickens. They’d take chickens and trade them – you’d get a due-bill, which you had to spend there, of course. That’s fair. …

I remember molasses came in huge barrels, but I don’t remember trading anything as far as that’s concerned, but eggs – eggs were a big product. That was the main product, as a matter of fact. The farmers would bring them in. I can’t remember where the eggs went, but … Dad had a little hammer … that he nailed up the crates with. I don’t know what ever happened to it, probably buried with him, I imagine, ’cause I can remember so many times people would use that thing and not bring it back – in the family – and he was tough about his hammer.

… Saturday night was a big night.  …. we would work on Saturday nights and sweep up after everybody was gone.  We would stay open until 10 or 11 o’clock – 10 o’clock anyway.  And then sweep.  It was a pretty big store.

From an interview with Norris Bloxom, summer 2010.

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on foods that cramp the tongue

They had two black heart cherry trees and then they had another cherry tree – I don’t know what the name of it was.  It was a white cherry.  And my grandmother made the best desserts out of those cherries.

She used to make something called cherry roly-poly. And then she’d fix some kind of sauce to put on top of it.  Oh my gosh, that would cramp your tongue.  That was so good.

And, of course, everything then – there were no instant mixes. Everything … I’ve seen her many a time get up and make biscuits in the morning for breakfast.  Bake them in the woodstove oven.

And then, on Saturdays, she would always make up yeast rolls.  [She] didn’t have a yeast cake.  There was some way they would … well, they did have a yeast cake, but they’d boil a white potato or something … white potato has something to do with it.  And she would make all these rolls up there for Sunday dinner.

Most of the time, you would have chicken – either baked chicken or fried chicken. Young biddies come off or young chickens come off in the spring, and you’d have fried chicken.  But in the winter, you’d have baked chicken.  And the baked chickens then – it was your laying hens, and they always had a whole cluster of little eggs inside and everybody wanted those eggs.  You know, when you bake a chicken, all those little eggs inside.  She was a good cook.

She used to make butter, make her own butter.  And then, she’d have the milk – she’d leave it setting here, would turn the clabber and honey. Those clabber biscuits would melt in your mouth.  She’d use clabber to make her biscuits. They were some kind of good.

I used to love clabber. Did you ever eat clabber? Probably not. … It reminds me of yogurt.  You know, the yogurts you have now, except this was – this was the real thing. The milk set out until it soured and then it turned to clabber.  And then you’d eat it, put a little sugar on it. [It was] nice and solid, pretty good.

From an interview with Una Holland, summer 2010.

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“We growed pretty well every crop you could grow.”

Farmers … didn’t have big acreage, but they always had something coming off.  … Strawberries was the first crop – they come off in the spring.  Then, we have string beans.  We grew two crops of them a year, string beans.  Then, white potatoes.  Then, sweet potatoes.  Then string beans … so we had about five or six different crops, vegetable crops.

We only grew corn enough for to feed the mules.  It was all ear corn.  You had to pick all your corn by hand.  In other words, we break the ear off and shuck it and throw it in the heat and then we pick it up and put it in the horse cart and … then we carry it to the stack, dump it up and then throw it by hand in the stack.  We always picked, went through it, and anything –  little, teeny ears we call nubbins – we fed that to the pigs.   Of course, they were meat for the table in the wintertime.  We’d kill about four or five hogs every year – for family, you know.

So we grew about five, six crops. Strawberries – [my daddy] generally had about three or four acres, and that’s about all he could get picked.  He had to pick them every day.

And then … string beans – they’d grow probably ten acres, maybe more. And then Irish potatoes – he’d have 15, 20 acres of that – depends on what size farm they were growing, but my daddy – he would probably have more than that.

And the sweet potatoes – they usually have 25 acres of them, because all of it’s hand work.  You know, you had to plow them out and scratch them out and throw them in the heat.  Irish potatoes – we actually graded them in the field and put them in barrels and then we shipped them by freight car and carried them through the station about seven barrels, eight barrels at a time.  A barrel of Irish potatoes weighs about 165 pounds.  A lot of the men could handle them by themselves.  But usually two of them would pick it up and put it on the wagon.

… Tomatoes – I forgot about that.  We grew a lot of tomatoes and picked green tomatoes, and then we picked the red tomatoes and carried them to the canning factory.  … There was a canning factory in every town … one in Hallwood, one in New Church, three in Pocomoke, one on Chincoteague, one in Greenbackville, one in New Church.  I think there was one in Stockton.

I heard my daddy say – this was in the 30s – he sold ’em for five cent a basket, a five-eight basket.  So I mean, you know, people don’t know what hard times are.

From an interview with Bev Fletcher, spring 2010.

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on horses, mules, and tractors

At the plow, courtesy of the Mason/Holland family

Franklin: You had two mules or two horses, either one.  One of them would work down in the furrow and the other one worked where it hadn’t been plowed.  It would probably be eight inches or ten inches lower, and that’s what we used until … one day people were getting tractors around here and, of course, we boys wanted tractors.  We got tired of walking.

The man who sold horses and mules come around and told my father, he said, “Marion, that’s the first mistake you ever made in your life – trying to buy a tractor.  Tractors gonna be the ruination of agriculture.”

It was the ruination of him, because he was out of business.  We had, that day, we had five mules or horses that we traded in on a tractor.

Everett: We had more than that.  I think we had four horses and Pappy died – Grandfather – and he left us three, so we had seven horses then.

Franklin: Probably did.

Everett: Didn’t have but five stables to put ’em into.  Pop went and traded three of them … no, traded five of them.

Franklin: Traded five of them in one day for this tractor.

Lee: So you could actually trade horses for a tractor?

Everett: Well, you had to pay some.

Franklin: Oh, yeah … they wouldn’t allow you much for those horses, ’cause tractors were coming into the world.  That was … that was around ’35, somewhere in there, wasn’t it?

Everett: Close to – I was about 15.

Franklin: And a tractor was only … it was $600 or $700 for a brand new tractor.  And now – they’re $150,000.

Everett: I think that was around ’38 or ’39 when we got that tractor, wasn’t it?

Franklin: It could have been.  I walked a long time.

Everett: One tractor could do more than twenty horses could do.  … You worked all the year for the horses. You work them in the morning, and you come to the house at lunchtime and you had to pump water – hand pump – and they could drink and drink and drink and drink, and you had to pump all that water and then you had to feed ’em before you could ever go eat your lunch. And the time you went in there and grabbed a little bit to eat, you had to go back and hook ’em back up because it was time to go to work again.  They got a good rest; we didn’t get none.

Franklin: Well, at the same time, you’re going back from breakfast, the first thing you had to do was go in there and feed these mules / horses, so they could eat, and then you had to milk the cows before you come back and eat yours while the mules / horses eat theirs.  One way they had it easier than we did.

Everett: We had to clean the stable about every week.

Franklin: Oh yeah, they had to be clean.

Everett: Pine shats I believe we used.

Franklin: Yeah, pine needles.

from interview with brothers Everett and Franklin Holland, fall 2009.

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on horses and mules

Everett: [We had] horses mostly.

Franklin: Mostly horses. They were cheaper to buy.

Everett: Work ’em six days a week and then we’d ride ’em on Sundays.

Franklin: That was a pleasure. We’d go to church Sunday afternoon and we’d ride the horses that morning, that was going out to Beaverdam Church, and build fires in the wood stove. That was a pleasure.

Audrey: What was the name of that horse? He used to come see me on a horse.  That was before we were married.  I’d hear this horse going bump, bump, bump … and I’d look down and here he’d come on that horse.  It was white with grey.

Franklin: We called it the grey horse.  It was mean as a dog.

Audrey: I lived how far from you?

Franklin: Twelve.  Twelve miles, I guess.  … I’d go through the woods and that kind of stuff. Probably eight miles, something like that.

Lee: And horses were cheaper to buy?

Franklin: Horses were cheaper than mules.

Lee: Why?

Franklin: I often wondered why myself, but a good pair of mules were worth twice as much as a pair of horses.  One thing, horses were more plentiful.

Everett: Mules were dumber, I think.  They go on and do their work, where a horse is getting around it somehow or another.  I remember when I was a child, the old horse there cultivating the corn – and he’d get to the end and see he learned that it was hard to hold the handle, the collar, and he’d put his foot over the chain.  You had to go down there and unhook the chain and put it around.  He’d get time – he’d kill time and he’d get to rest up.

Franklin: That’s the only rest they got, when they made a turn.  Each end of the field, they’d slow right down and make a job of the turn. That’s when they got to rest up.

from an interview with brothers Everett and Franklin Holland & with Franklin’s wife Audrey, fall 2009.

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“You find me a cow … and I can milk it”

When Pat was born … she cried.  I thought she was crying a lot.

Old Dr. Dick Fletcher, down to Sanford, I carried her down there – he was our doctor, you know.  He examined her.  He said, “I can’t find anything really wrong with her.” Miss Nancy, his wife, she came in that room. She heard the last sentence he said to me and she said, “Hattie, you get some milk and give that child [some milk]. Dick will let [her] starve to death if you listen to him.”

Milton said, “I don’t know how to milk a cow.  I’ve never milked one in my life.”  His dad … didn’t have cows.  He said, “If you want one, I’ll buy it for you.”

We used to have Hargis Taylor who used to sell beef from the back of his pickup.  And you know, they wouldn’t allow that now.  I said [to Hargis], “Do you know where I can get a cow, a nice cow?” He said, “Yeah.”

I was raised on a farm and, I didn’t have to do it, but I knew how to [milk a cow].  I said, “Could you get me a cow?” Milton said,” I’ll get you a cow, but I can’t milk it.  I’ve never milked one in my life.  I said, “Well, you just find me a cow – get Mr. Hargis Taylor to find me a cow, and I can milk it.”  So that’s what they did.  Sure enough she didn’t have enough food.

You didn’t go to  a hospital unless you had troubles.  We had this [midwife], I forget her name now, anyway she stayed with me for two, two or three weeks.  Usually they only stayed about a week or eight days or something like that, but she stayed with me [longer].  … So, Pat … got special [milk], from her mom milking this cow.  You pull down on it … Have you ever seen anyone milk a cow?

Lee: It’s probably harder than it looks.

Hattie: Yeah, it is.  And if you have long fingernails or anything and hurt [the cow], you know, they’ll hold up [the milk].

from an interview with Hattie Killmon Baxter, summer 2009

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on turkeys, eggs, and afternoon naps

William Justis, circa 1925 (courtesy of Thornton / Justis family)

Daddy raised chickens and he sold eggs. And he said that he didn’t go by the market price on eggs. He said no egg was worth more than five cents, and he wasn’t gonna charge anybody more than five cents an egg. So that was 60 cents a dozen, and he sold chicken eggs for 60 cents a dozen, and he coudn’t supply all of his customers. They all wanted eggs.

He had a little flock of chickens, and he had one that was a pet. That chicken was the cutest thing. He would go out to feed them and, honey, she was at the head of the flock. She ran up to him just like she knew him by name. He loved that old hen.

Mother … didn’t raise turkeys after they moved up by the railroad track, but she raised turkeys down at White’s Neck, and one day … a storm came up in the afternoon, and she had this little flock of turkeys that were kind of back of the house down this roadway that – they were a right little old distance from the house. She had a little coop down there, and a storm came up in the afternoon, and honey, she ran off there kiting it, because she was afraid her little turkeys would get drowned. They were outside.  And she did get wet before she got back to the house, but when I saw her coming – I was standing out on the back porch. The back porch was screened in, and I thought, “Oh, Mother’s going to get wet.”  And, sure enough, she did get wet and when she came up the steps, I opened the door, held the door open for her, and when I hit that door, I got stung – lightning struck – I got stung and I kind of shook a little bit, you know.  But it didn’t bother me. It soon wore off. But I got her in the house, ’cause it was getting stormy – lightning and thunder and stuff going on, and I didn’t want her out in that, but she got her little turkeys in.  She didn’t want them to get wet.  They were the prettiest little things, those little fuzzy things.

Frances (my sister) said that, when I was little, I would bother the egg basket.  Mother would keep the egg basket in the pantry, and the pantry opened on the porch, and I would go in there, and I would bother the eggs.  She told me – I guess it was so – she said they got so that they would put some feathers in the egg basket.  And I was scared of feathers, so I stopped bothering the eggs.

I guess I was four or five years old.  Mother used to put me upstairs in the afternoon to take a nap, and I didn’t like that afternoon nap – oh, that was terrible. And she would put me upstairs, and this bedroom window opened so that I could see the yard, and we had this orchard out back that had peaches and apples and plums and all sorts of good things in it. Mother and Frances would go out in the afternoon and they’d walk around the yard, and they’d go to the orchard, you know, and they’d pick some fruit, and oh, they were just having a ball.  And I thought, oh if I could just get out there with them.  I didn’t understand why she put me up there – I had to have that nap. But she would – I just had to have that nap.  She’d put me up there, and she thought I was asleep, bless her heart, but I was watching every step they made.

But my, it was so different then.  I think children have missed so much.  So many children don’t know – they don’t realize did the egg come first or the chicken, you know?  I don’t guess it makes too much difference, but to me, I cherish it.

from an interview with Ruth Justis Thornton, summer 2009.

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very few people, when I was a boy, had tractors

[They] had horses and wagons.  [would] load them in the field and take them out to the broker. Unload them and back to the fields to reload. Horses and mules. Very few people, when I was a boy, had tractors. Very few.  We had one guy by the name of Brooks Horton, he used to go around plowing land for different people, and he had tractors.  Charged so much a acre.

And then eventually we got an old tractor, and that was a lifesaver.

There’s a lot of people, small farmers, had Model A Ford cars and stuff like that – they’d cut them in two and make them shorter and make a tractor out of them.  They pulled, you know, like a tractor.  Because it was short, you could turn in the field.  That’s why they cut them off.  Cut them in two and put them back together – shorter.  It was a mini old Model A cut up during them times.  There’s a lot of people wish they had them now.

They got rid of them once the tractor got a little bit plentiful.  You know, most people sold them for junk.

from an interview with Ernest Finney, summer 2009.

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on slop buckets and homemade scrapple

Richard: My daddy never did have a sow. But there would always be one or two or three people in the neighborhood … one would have three or four sows, and another would have one or two boars. So, you’d take the sow to the boar and get her fixed up and sell the pigs to somebody who didn’t have a sow or a boar. It was always somebody who had pigs for sale. You killed hogs always in December.

You had to wait for cool weather, see. There was no such thing as ice box, as refrigerators back then. You’d depend on salt. You killed hogs after it turned cold, from the 5th to the 20th of December. And then, as soon as you got straight, January or February, that’s when you got your pigs for the next year.

You had them in the pen, and you started feeding them. In the wintertime, you could turn them out and let them fend for themselves on the rye and stuff, but after you planted your crops, of course, then you had to put them up. Feed them corn and slops. Everybody had a slop bucket in the house.

Nora Lee: Whatever slops you had, even your dishwater. Dishwater – you would use it.

Richard: Put it in the slop bucket to feed the hogs. Everybody had a smokehouse, that’s true. You salted everything, see, and you hung it up in the smokehouse.

Nora Lee: Your sausage, also.

Richard: And we did bacon. It was put in the smokehouse. Of course, it’s salty as brine, you know, has to be to keep.

Nora Lee: Lard. We used to trap lard.

Richard: Yeah.

Nora Lee: Chittlins. I never did eat chittlins.

Richard: No, the blacks always ate the chittlins. They always got the guts.

Nora Lee: We used to make scrapple. It’s the liver and kidneys and …

Richard: It’s some of the – golly they’re awful – heart, liver, kidneys …

Nora Lee: Homemade scrapple is much better than what you can buy today.

Richard: That was a delicacy, and you had that right after you killed hogs. See, you didn’t have any way to keep anything unless you salted it.

Nora Lee: Tenderloin we used to can. My mother used to can that. Oh, it was so good.

from an interview with Richard and Nora Lee Parks, summer 2009

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Hog killings were big days like Christmas

I was born in 1932 …. and I can remember my mother saying that we fared a lot better in the country than the people did in the city during the depression years because we had our own food. 

Bundick family hog killing, Assawoman, VA, circa 1938 (courtesy of Thomas family)

Bundick family hog killing, circa 1938 (courtesy of the Thomas family)

 We had our hogs and we had hog killings … and they were big days, you know, like Christmas or something, when the family would get together and the cousins and the aunts and the uncles to help one another.  Everybody would come and slaughter the hogs (which probably sounds gross to our generation or to your generation) but that’s where we got our meat – our hams and our scrapple and our sausages and we made our own lard.  So, we had the necessities of life right on our farm.  

We grew our chickens.  We had our own eggs.  I remember going to the store with my mother and she would carry eggs to exchange for groceries.  … We really didn’t need many groceries in those days.  Flour, sugar, things like that.  I remember her carrying a large quart can to have molasses pumped out of this big barrel into the quart jar, and we had a cow, and so we had our milk, and Mother made her own butter.  We had our own vegetables we grew … of course, we had a garden, but we had a farm and we grew potatoes. 

We had three black men who worked for us regularly – always.  And my mother, she cooked for them, and they ate two meals a day … in our kitchen.  She made biscuits every morning.  And, of course, pancakes and all that … fat meat she fried that’s no longer good for us now.  

We had a lot of meat … We had hams in the smokehouse, so when you got ready for supper, if you were going to have ham, you went down to the smokehouse. You had a big butcher knife that you sliced a couple slices of this ham.  And then you always had potatoes.  … We had our own eggs; we had chickens and ducks and so we lived pretty well on the hog, as they say.  

from an interview with Patsy Bundick Thomas, winter/spring 2009

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